The reigning area field hockey champions from Niskayuna are making progress step by step.
The Silver Warriors have been playing with fervor ever since a season-opening loss at Saratoga Springs. Now the passing connections are becoming more frequent.
“Since that first game, everyone has picked it up,” Niskayuna junior Ali Wells said after Wednesday’s 6-0 Suburban Council win over Shaker. “We’ve all progressed. We’re putting everything we have into it.”
Wells notched two goals, four of her teammates also scored and Carrie Hanks assisted three times in Niskayuna’s most dominant display of the season. Wednesday’s effort marked the fourth straight victory for last year’s league and Section II Class A champs since a late comeback fell short in a 2-1 setback against the Blue Streaks two weeks ago.
“Score fast and score frequently, that’s our new motto,” said Niskayuna coach Alison Broomhead. “That comes with being aggressive.”
It also comes by moving the ball from one end of the field to the other, like Niskayuna did so well against Shaker.
“Contain the ball, make tackles and make give-and-gos, create transition. Those are things we’ve been working on,” said Broomhead. “You can’t do it individually. You’ve got to do it as a team.
“We’re getting better at knowing where to move after we make a pass. Once you pass, your job is not over.”
Niskayuna passed and pressured plenty on its home field in building a 4-0 halftime lead, with all of the goals coming in less than 18 minutes. Ali Frary scored first just 2:21 into the contest after taking a backhand feed from Hanks.
“Coach talked to us after the Saratoga game about how important it is to be aggressive,” said Wells. “We’ve been doing that. Once we connect all the moves, we’ll really start to go.”
Shaker coach Allison Abdelnour knew slowing Niskayuna was going to be a difficult task after the Silver Warriors produced four goals in a win over Columbia Friday. They generated three goals before that in a triumph over Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, the defending Section II Class B champion.
“You tell the kids to battle as hard as they can,” said Abdelnour. “You’ve got to rush them. You can’t give them time to play with the ball. They’ve got too many skilled players.”
Hanks filled a significant role from the midfield as her low, hard drives kept the ball moving toward Niskayuna’s offensive circle.
“We have a strong center that facilitates play,” Broomhead said of Hanks, a Maryland recruit and member of the national indoor team. “We have to utilize that.”
Niskayuna did so with its second, third and fourth goals coming in a span of less than eight minutes.
“We did play very well today. Coach was happy,” said Wells. “We’ve got to keep going. We’re not done yet.”
“I know what it’s like,” said Abdelnour, a Shaker graduate. “They don’t want to be the team that lets down. They’re a team on a mission. For us, you take a day like today to motivate yourself for the next game.”
Senior Giovanna Ciavardoni was Shaker’s standout with her disruptive play as the flyer while the Blue Bison (0-4) defended penalty corners.
“She’s a girl that will give 100 percent all day every day,” Andelnour said. “She sets the tone for our team. She’s a role model for our team.”
Ciavardoni made a nice clear. and Shaker netminder Kirstyn Watson made a pair of saves in the early going before Niskayuna began to click.
“I have good kids. They’re hard-working kids, and they’re slowly picking everything up,” said Broomhead. “We try to implement what we do in practice into games. As long as we do that, we’ll win games.”
Watson made a save and Jackie O’Brien pounced on the rebound and scored to give Niskayuna a 2-0 lead. Wells scored off a feed from Hanks and later connected unassisted as the Silver Warriors advantage grew to 4-0.
Maura McCann and Megan Garrity finished off Niskayuna penalty corners in the second half, just as Frary had to open the scoring.
“We’re connecting with our passes more, and we’re talking more,” said Wells. “Off the field, we’re all getting to know each other better, and that helps, too. It makes us better when we’re on the field.”
Niskayuna’s big first half included a 13-3 advantage in penalty corners and a 16-1 advantage in shots. With just over four minutes left, Shaker worked the ball into its offensive circle for the first time.
bh-bl, shen win
Nicole Beardsley scored an overtime goal off a Carly Grant pass as Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake dealt Saratoga Springs its first Suburban Council loss, 2-1.
Ashley LaMere scored on a penalty stroke late in the second half to tie the game, and Brittany Ryan made nine saves for the Spartans (3-2).
Kelsey Briddell scored a first-half goal for the Blue Streaks (3-1), assisted by Sam Petruzzo, and Sam Geils made five saves.
Erin Buckley delivered two goals, and unbeaten Shenendehowa roughed up Guilderland, 8-0, for its fifth straight league victory.
Anna Bottino had a goal and three assists for the Lady Plainsmen (6-0 overall), and Ashley Malberg had a goal and an assist.
Helena Massiello scored two second-half goals, and Emily Dick made four saves in Columbia’s 2-1 comeback win over Bethlehem.
Grace Pazienza and Jen Brady set up Masiello’s goals after Jordan Brazis-Eberle had given the Eagles a 1-0 first-half lead.
Katie Zilka’s first-half goal lifted Queensbury over Scotia-Glenville, 1-0, in a Foothills Council game Tuesday.